The Minister for Health has said the Government plans to press ahead with the next phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions and he said he envisages all sectors will have reopened by Christmas.
The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet tomorrow to consider what advice it will give to the Government ahead of the publication of a road map next week on the next phase of reopening.
Stephen Donnelly said while the plan is to proceed with the next phase, "what kind of timing impacts there might be depends on the NPHET advice and let's see what they have to say".
Asked if all sectors will be reopened by Christmas, he said: "Obviously specific dates are something that we would be looking to NPHET for and we'll be discussing that at Cabinet, but yes, certainly the view would be that we would be open this calendar year."
Minister Donnelly said the Government wants to "provide real certainty for people".
"Most of society and most of the economy is open but we're very aware that there are still parts that aren't and that have suffered hugely.
"What we want to do is help them open as quickly as possible and make sure that when they do open, that they can stay open, and give them clarity as to when that can happen so they can plan accordingly," he said.
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The Minister also said certain basic public measures such as the wearing of masks in higher risk environments may be kept in place "for some time".
When asked if he shared the same optimism as Minister Donnelly, the Chief Medical Officer said that it is going to be well into September before the vaccination programme is completed.
Dr Tony Holohan said over the course of the last few weeks and month, NPHET expressed hope and optimism that the disease criteria would fit in with that time period. However, he said that unfortunately Ireland has of the highest rate of incidences in the EU.
"It's not right for us to be expressing optimism based on how well we've done on vaccination," he said.
Dr Holohan added that we still need another four to six weeks to get the benefit of two doses and the time after that for the protection to kick in.
Minister Donnelly also said he fully expects all schools and all colleges to reopen as planned.
He said there has been "absolutely no suggestion that that wouldn't be the case" and he said it was "a top priority" for the Government.
Meanwhile, Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid has said that the gap between adults who are partially vaccinated and fully vaccinated "continues to close".
In a post on Twitter, he said that almost 86% of adults here are now fully vaccinated, while 91% of adults have received a first dose.
Gap between adults partially & fully vaccinated continues to close. Almost 86% of adults fully vaccinated & 91% partially. Now over 144,000 12-15 year olds registered & 88,000 administered. 307 #COVID19 patients in hospital & 60 in ICU is still our focus of concern. @HSELive— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) August 24, 2021
Mr Reid also said that over 144,000 12-15 year olds have registered for a Covid-19 vaccine while 88,000 vaccines have been administered in this age cohort.
However, the HSE's "focus of concern" remains the rising hospitalisation figures with 307 Covid-19 patients being treated in hospital - down from 318 yesterday - including 55 in intensive care.
Yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that Ireland is "still not at the peak of this wave of Covid-19".
Separately, an Assistant Professor of Architecture at UCD has said that the measures put in place in schools last year would not be enough to manage the Delta variant.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Philip Boucher-Hayes, Orla Hegarty said that "the risk is very different to the last time that schools were open. The variant that we have is twice as transmissible, so it spreads like chicken pox".
She said she is worried about the school environment as the number of cases in the community is about 25 times the level this time last year, adding that "we need to throw everything at this with every level of prevention we can".